Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

A Battle Well Worth Fighting

Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

A Battle Well Worth Fighting

Article excerpt

Three years ago, when my daughter was four years old, I had never heard the word "inclusion." But I did know Rachel used others as role models for speech and behavior, and it seemed only logical she would have more and better role models in a regular class.

Unfortunately, the "experts" in our school district believed in segregation. Rachel wasted her first year of school in a special day class for "speech-and-language-impaired" children. Her classmates had the same language difficulties as Rachel; some had behavior problems, too. All six were boys. Rachel spent that long year without another girl to play with; the only dolls in her classroom were the ones I donated. She didn't learn the language of play, because she never heard it.

At our next IEP meeting, the team was able to agree on most of Rachel's goals for the following year. But we reached an impasse when we started discussing the type of kindergarten class she should attend. Our school district dared us to Me for due process; and we did. After several months of anguish, countless hours of discussion with our wonderful advocate and terrific attorney and more than eight hours of mediation, we finally had what we wanted - Rachel would attend the same school as her older brother, four blocks from our house. She would be fully included in a regular kindergarten class, with therapists coming into the classroom to work with her.

I wish I could say we all lived happily ever after, but that was not the case. We neglected to add one important item to our mediation agreement; we did not insist that the kindergarten teacher want the challenge of a child with disabilities.

Unfortunately, Rachel ended up with a teacher who didn't want the extra work and didn't want to be part of a team. Because Rachel was labeled "special ed," the classroom teacher took no responsibility for her education. …

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